Host Frank Stasio opened with CCI chairman Robert Thompson giving the party line: the CCI’s “main thrust was to develop an inclusive social community,” since Duke’s “next challenge is . . . engaging difference.”
Of course, it’s clear that the CCI intended to engage only certain types of difference; after all, CCI subgroup chairs Peter Wood, Karla Holloway, and Anne Allison seemed to have no problem with denouncing students when doing so advanced their personal, ideological, or pedagogical agendas. Those students, it appears, must be sacrificed in the name of the Group of 88’s vision of an “inclusive social community.”
Thompson made clear that the CCI’s goal was weakening the campus position of fraternities and athletes. Why—in the name of inclusiveness—did he not ensure that at least one student-athlete was on the CCI? Stasio didn’t ask, and Thompson didn’t tell.
And why—in the name of common sense—did the dean not demand the resignation of the only fraternity representative on the CCI, senior Chauncey Nartey, after the frat of which Nartey was president was suspended in November? Surely, it would seem, Nartey should not be in a position to tell anyone else how to behave. Could Nartey's retention on the committee have flowed from his having sponsored a late March 2006 resolution demanding that the lacrosse players be forbidden from practicing until Mike Nifong completed his investigation?
Stasio did, however, offer a surprise question. He noted that the report had uncovered evidence that some students and professors engaged in anti-athletic stereotypes. Thompson’s response: “We want to address that situation in its entirety.” How? He didn’t say, and the committee apparently had no interest in pursuing it. For the CCI, it looks like some stereotypes are not a pressing problem.
Thompson, appropriately, called for treating excessive drinking on campus as a “public health problem.” The dean added that the administration needed to “communicate and have clear policies” regarding alcohol use by students. But the CCI head ignored the elephant in the room—the apparent abuse by
Stasio then discussed the CCI’s “enterprising” recommendations with two Duke students. Student Government president and CCI member Elliot Wolf has publicly criticized the CCI’s flawed procedure. Chronicle columnist Kristin Butler penned an eviscerating review of the CCI. The Chronicle editorial board has penned several articles critiquing the CCI. So, if Stasio wanted, he easily could have found a student to present a critical view of the report. It seems he didn’t want to do so. Both invited students warmly endorsed the CCI.
The program’s most interesting section came in a roundtable discussion featuring Duke grad Steven Roy Goodman, a college counselor with TopColleges.com; Duke law professor Paul Haagen; and anti-lacrosse extremist Orin Starn.
Goodman was a voice of realism in a debate too often characterized by outlandish thinking. “Duke,” he stated, “is playing with fire here.” It “competes in the educational marketplace” with schools like
Tinkering with its image, Goodman noted, threatens to leave Duke adrift. The CCI’s anti-sports, nanny-state agenda “would dramatically change the way the university is looked at around the country.” And “universities don’t exist in a vacuum.” Students attracted to the current version of Duke would just go elsewhere; students who want to go to anti-sports universities where the administration tells them how to behave wouldn’t necessarily choose Duke anyway.
Goodman astutely analyzed the problem: “The students who are applying to Duke are attracted to Duke precisely because of the athletic/academic combination. And the faculty who are attracted to Duke are attracted to Duke for their own reasons, but those two trains are colliding. That’s what I think we’re seeing now, in the responses to the lacrosse controversy and the responses to this report.” It’s “almost like a house divided—it can’t stand.”
Haagen similarly asked people to live in the reality-based community. While athletes as a whole perform less well in undergraduate institutions, athletes who attend elite institutions like Duke, it seems, “are extraordinarily successful when they go out into the world.” The preparation that they receive, Haagen noted, is highly socially valued.
Speaking, he claimed, on behalf of “many” (unnamed) professors and firmly in support of “our excellent president,” Starn hailed the CCI’s “positive recommendations.” In a comment oozing with condescension, he stated that athletes are “lovely people,” but they were “just getting by in their schoolwork.” (He produced no evidence for this claim.) His support for the CCI’s anti-athletics agenda, Starn fantastically continued, came from talking to (anonymous, of course) student-athletes.
Fifteen years ago, according to Starn, the aura around the Duke athletic program might have helped the institution. But Duke is now a “fabulous university in every respect,” so “we shouldn’t be trying to attract students because of the opportunity they’ll have to be basketball fans.” What should Duke seek? Students attracted by their institution’s “social activism opportunities.”
After a few minutes of listening to Starn, Goodman figured things out: “The issue really is whether Duke is going to be a small school like Swarthmore and promote the kind of social activism that Professor Starn is talking about.” He doubted that it was desirable, or even “possible to have a school like Duke become a school like Swarthmore or Bowdoin.” Duke could be like Harvard or Yale, Starn responded, prompting Goodman to gently remind him, “They have very different historical traditions than Duke does.”
What Starn “is really saying,” Goodman concluded, “is that [athletics] has too much of a place in all of
In the end, Goodman reasoned, student-athletes make choices in how they spend their time—just like other students are asked to make choices. “What we see here,” he recognized, “is a campus culture report that’s trying to force Duke to move in a direction of giving students effectively fewer choices.” Figures such as Holloway, Starn, and Thompson want to restrict choices and force-feed Duke students a Group of 88-sanctioned “diversity” agenda. But, to borrow Goodman’s words, the more likely outcome of adopting the CCI recommendations is to set in motion a “train wreck.”
[Update, 11.23am: A reader noted that President Brodhead invited Nartey to be one of two Duke students to accompany him to the Feb. 8 "A Duke Conversation" event in Charlotte. The write-up for the event celebrates, among other items, Nartey's work with his fraternity (which by that point had been suspended). Obviously Nartey is a student who represents the kind of Duke that the administration would like to see in future.]